ADs being creative? That’s BC says Kartik Krishnan

Posted: April 25, 2010 by moifightclub in bollywood, cast & crew, cinema, life, Thoughts

With a day job that takes care of my bread and butter, and sometimes jam too, I happily give gyaan and quote Kieslowski wherever I can – Filmmaking doesn’t mean audiences, festivals, reviews and interviews. It means getting up at six o’clock in the morning. It means the cold, the rain, the mud and having to carry heavy lights. It’s a nerve- racking business and at a certain point everything has to come second, including your family, emotions and private life.

My roomie who wanted to become an actor once, is now happily settled with a day job and I taunt him, quoting Paash – Sabse khatarnaam hota hai apne sapne ka mar jaana. But then, someone tells me to get up at six in the morning, with cold, rain, mud and carry heavy lights, i will probably turn to other side. Aha, we romanticise everything. Kartik Krishnan isnt. He quit his day job, jumped into the pool where it matters and is trying to swim through. Read on.

Firstly just a clarification – BC refers to Before Christ and not ‘Bad Character’ in the police books or Behe**** in the goon books.

(Note – the word ‘AD’ usually refers to an Assistant Director. Spelt the same but pronounced & meant differently than the abbreviation AD. i.e. an AD film)

Like all ‘outsiders’ in the film industry till 2 yrs ago, I always perceived the easiest way for us to get into the film industry was to go upto an RGV, Mani Saar, Vishal bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra etc etc and the other “sensible” directors (whose films we swore upon), prostate in front of them and beg for an AD job. That you might be paid peanuts, survive on vada-pavs & four square cigerettes, was a given (classic milds are for established directors and established ADs, some of whom also smoke the gold flake lights/davidoff lights/B&H Lights – I learnt later). Earlier it used to be haven with the complimentary ‘chakhna‘ (snacks) provided along with a quarter royal stag, which you could ask for as many times as possible in a local BAR ‘aani’ RESTAURANT, without having to loosen your purse – and could even pass it off as a ‘light dinner’. Now it is 20 bucks for peanuts/salad/’kakdi’/chakli etc.

But I’m digressing. Anyways the deal ‘percieved’ was that saying a ‘yes’ to all these factors (low pay,running around work, not so ‘rayeesana shauk’) would be AN OBVIOUS PAY-OFF FOR THE ‘CREATIVE LEARNING’ or ‘kitna kuch seekhne ko milega‘. This perception got strengthened more if you were a struggler like me – no degree in fimaking/mass media/mass comm from SRFTII/FTII/Xaviers/ZIMA/IP University/JMI MCRC and were simply a TY BCom (as they say it in Mumbai – Third Year) dropout/passout, or a former engineer like me. So basically we learn as much about filmaking on the job and eventually pitch our screenpays/ideas to someone willing to listen, in the hope they would may be arrange a producer-one-on-one, and lo behold – before you know we have a film being made. Your film. That would take some time but yes the path was there for the taking.

So we struggle around to be an AD. Approach directors and prostrate (thank god – these days they offer a handshake and make you feel professional and not a ‘bhakt’). Convince them of your bit knowledge and passion for films. In the event that we get the job, great. In case we don’t, we might have to fool around.


It means try and act in short films made by your peers, write some stuff, make short films, and if sometimes you are lucky, play the hotel manager in your filmaker friends’ film in a one scene appearance for three thousand ruppees or so. Anything that either keeps the kitchen fire burning and/or you getting some dabbling filmaking experience. And the tricky thing is, there is no ‘way’ laid down. You have to learn it yourself meeting like minded ‘strugglers’ who rarely drink the Barista coffee @ Yari Road/Royal stag at Adarsh/Madhuban Bar aani Restaurant; working and interacting with them, often for no pay; and fooling around in the creative medium. And in case you are lucky (which I might not), you sometimes also get work in AD.films/corporate films/music videos etc as an AD. (AD-ing in an AD. Film/corporate film/music video pays much more than AD-ing in a feature film, and is usually over 10 times more number of shoot-prep days)

And then you actually get that break as an AD in feature films-

Yeah. You’re on your way. Getting a monthly salary (not much but just enough) and working.


Being an AD has very very little ‘CREATIVE’ learnings.


1.Location recce or Scouting (going to the location and taking pictures to show to the director – maximum coverage from all angles – exterior & interior – sometimes indicating the directions – meaning North South East West)

2. Continuity excel sheet (unless the 1st ADs have generated that beforehand using Movie Magic/EP Scheduling)

3.Day Night Breakdown – which scenes are to be shot in day and which ones at night

4.Weapons breakdown

5.Location list breakdown

6.Email list of all HODs


8.Making sure everything and everyone is at place.

And the like. I’m listing very few of the many such excel sheets/filtering work/running around etc. I’m sure much more experienced ADs can add more (I only assisted on a few months on pre production on a feature film. Why ? I wont get into that)

So you get a bit disillusioned. Luckily if you are from the TY BCOM/BE category, you take it in your stride and go on working. If you are some film school passout – well you have to ask them but I’m guessing there is a jump cut from discussing Godard/Truffaut/De Sica into doing IT related work/organisational – administrative tasks – which might disillusion them too. For once, we feel like we’re in the same boat. But some of the savvy ones know the truth beforehand – Being an AD has very very little ‘CREATIVE’ learnings. So they move on.


Leave the creatives to the Director,DOP,ART director (very rarely is the writer mentioned along side the aforementioned list, but we’ll let that pass too). An AD’s job is executional and administrative.”


“It’s like making arrangements during a family wedding. Just because you run around getting shaadi ka laddoos, printing the cards, arranging liquor for the lousy group in ladke-walas, making sure the dinner is served on time, getting pure ghee for the havan; doesn’t mean YOU WILL ALSO HAVE A SUHAAG RAAT”

Ohh I get it. So basically doing all that doesn’t mean you will be a good groom, just that you are a good guy. Since the groom will simply sit with a plastic smile and wait for the first night. A very different skill set from the shaadi-mein-kaam-karnewale-honhaar-ladka set.

“As an AD, you are executing someone else’s vision, eventually so that you get to know how to execute yours”

But if you start out as an AD, 3-4 yrs and 4-5 films down the line, you have learnt the processes involved in making a film. It neednt necessarily mean the film you make is equally good as the ones who you have worked on, and of course vice versa. For eg: so many of the RGV proteges. Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi & Kal,Aaj Aur Kal; Lagaan & Mumbai se Aaaya Mera Dost/Mission Istanbul.

Recently, unemployment forced me to ask around for work – AD-ing on AD/corporate films. Was also looking around besides fooling around. Had an interview for a 3rd AD postiion in an AD film.

“Yours is a more creative resume. But for a 3 day AD film with 400 odd extras involved I don’t know how good you will be able to handle it.”

That’s a fair enough apprehension. Even I wouldn’t know if I would be capable of handling it.

A friend of mine said – “An AD turned director on his first feature film – was more interested in the things falling in place – all shots getting in time before the light goes away as opposed to discussing with DOP the ‘creatives’. The DOP was getting frustrated.”

So a couple of points

1. Bottom line – Not all good ADs make good directors. They’re different skill sets.

2. If being capable of handling 400 extras, costume continuity, excel sheets etc etc is one of the criteria of employing an AD – then why don’t the directors employ BBAs & MBAs ??? “Because the MBAs are sitting atop corporates deciding how a film should be made” – is what my friend joked. “Which MBA would do a managerial/executional job for the peanuts paid ?”

3. Unless an AD works how will he get experience ? And since 1st ADs are usually looking around for junior ADs who have experience, how will the junior AD get to work ? The Catch 22 problem explained so eloquently by Sachin in Trishul in a job interview to Shashi Kapoor.

4. Why should the fact the prospective AD did some writing/acting jig to learn the craft of filmaking/get titsy bitsy experience/money be a deterrant to his employment as an AD in features/AD films ? Agreed the skillset is different – but cummon man, one can learn. Managerial/Executional skills are easier to acquire than the ‘creative’ ones. Correct me if I’m wrong please.

5. 1st ADs at times get paid more than the writer. It’s a marvel of the industry which I haven’t understood.

6.”You have acting & writing experience on your resume. Why do you want to assist ?”

Hmmmm for these – experience in the process of filmaking; money, money & money; writing rarely pays if at all on time; Acting roles are extremly limited since a friend says “You’re the ugliest guy ever exposed to film stock”

7. “But You have writing & AD-ing experience on your resume. Why do you want to act ?”

Err… Refer to Q 6

8. “Doesn’t it create confusion to the employer as to what you want to do in life ?”

As if the film industry, why even our country, parliament, cricket team act in a Six Sigma Mumbai Dabbawala organised way ! If I’m good at the job should it really matter if I fuck around, beat my wife, walk in my house in undies Ransa style etc etc ?

Or better still – Did you ask this question when you knew I knew Java, MS Project Server, C++, Visual Studio and MS SQL ? Does this mean I cannot code in Java because I knew the other skills ? Or does this imply given an opportunity to learn & work on Main frames, I wouldnt be able to do so ?

Or better still – don’t you also know Hindi, Indian English, American English, Marathi and your mother tongue Tamil/Gujrati/Bengali/Punjabi/Bhojpuri/Telugu/Urdu/Sanskrit or whatever ?


  1. Azad says:

    interesting view point.. I think, ADs should not take their work seriously and keep on hanging around with director. A bad AD might make a good director

  2. Shripriya says:

    KK, good post with lots of good points.

    Yes, the skillset of an AD and that of a director are very different. The key is being able to switch hats completely and ignore the other side of your brain when you are performing the other job. As a director, you have to make sure you have a great AD and then just trust them and force yourself to not even think about any of that stuff – anyway, there is so much to think about on the creative side alone – framing, lighting right for the mood, performance etc.

    And on the resume front, why don’t you have two resumes to get around the issue you are facing? On one just put down your ADing experience and on the other put down your creative experience. Depending on the job, pull out the right one.

  3. Fatema says:

    Yes, the industry is fucked up. Try removing your acting/writing experience when you apply for AD jobs. Make different resumes for relevant jobs you apply. Might work, might not. Even after so many years I have no clue on what basis ADs are hired here.

    And you are NOT ugly.

  4. Envyas says:

    ‘If I’m good at the job should it really matter if I fuck around, beat my wife, walk in my house in undies Ransa style etc etc ?’

    Beating your wife would be a concern for me at least.

  5. kennydb says:

    I second that. Ugly KK definitely is not. His features actually make for good character on screen. I’m still laughing at some of his takes – even outtakes.
    And these lines were really funny: “jump cut from discussing Godard/Truffaut/De Sica into doing IT related work/organisational” “DOESN’T MEAN YOU WILL ALSO HAVE A SUHAAG RAAT”
    And totally agree with “If I’m good at the job should it really matter if I fuck around”
    But lage raho bhai. I’ve been saying it right from the Auto MC days that you’re a natural. Kuch toh baat banegi.

  6. arun says:

    KK, Focus on becoming an actor. Hang out with some casting directors.

  7. Fatema says:

    Oh btw, I loved th suhaag raat bit!

    ‘“It’s like making arrangements during a family wedding. Just because you run around getting shaadi ka laddoos, printing the cards, arranging liquor for the lousy group in ladke-walas, making sure the dinner is served on time, getting pure ghee for the havan; doesn’t mean YOU WILL ALSO HAVE A SUHAAG RAAT”

    Heeehheeheehaaahhhaaahaaaahawwwhaawww!!! Where do you get these thoughts from?

  8. hardik mehta says:

    hilarious!!! and quite true kartik. but see as fatema said, we need to have diff resumes for diff kind of jobs. come on yaar, hum sirf survive karne nahi aaye iss shaher mein, humein thrive bhi toh karna hai…!!!

    So being an AD, i jus hate the damn word: “AD”…we have to take care of basic income and then luckily most of us do not even need to send home esp comparing when my dad was 27, he was running the whole joint family….

    the secret of hanging around the industry according to me and what i follow is: do a lot of freelance work, we come from B.Tech/BE backgrounds, we have a whole set of friends who later on went to do their MBAs and they are doing sales/marketing/HR and all those terms..approach them and they have a lot of work in their “big big” companies..for which they need writers/campaigns/short films/corporate videos etc…and apart from that we also have our own scripts/screenplays/concepts/films to look after…

    udhar se paisa kamaao aur yahaan time invest karo…and on top of it if u get to be an AD with an above average harm in that…u hang around the set… aint it was so much fun talkin, jus talkin to our directr, where we worked…

    things take time. they do not happen overnight na…but then mumbai/bombay has a great capacity for people who are ultimately talented…on a melodramatic note:

    “yeh meri karmabhoomi hai dost!!!”

  9. Fatema says:

    @Hardik – About hating the word ‘AD’, my workaround is, whenever someone asks me what I do, I say I am an AD – Aspiring Director! 😉

  10. kartik krishnan says:

    @Azad – Hmmm. Yeah we always do have the tendency to take ourselves too seriously.
    @Shripriya – two resumes sounds a good idea. Well the problem is the ‘creative’ resume has some dope in it. But the AD resume has none. Only one job done. Hmmmm Anyways lemme work around
    @Fatema – ☺ Dekhte hain alag resumes bana kar. Aur unemployed hone par thoughts aa jaatey hain aise pagal wale
    @Envyas – Heheheh. It would be for me too. Just made it up to illustrate a point
    @Kenny – thanks darling
    @Arun – Hmmmm will have to do that
    @hardik – Freelance work – hmmmmmmmmmmm The way to go I suppose

  11. Srinivas says:

    Kya hai yeh? Kyu hai yeh? The double Ks that will haunt you for life! (Apart from your initials!) :p

  12. Fatema says:

    ROFLMAO Srini!!!!!!!!

  13. Navdeep says:

    Kartik resume – ummm… hit delete… empty trash can.


  14. Sudhir Nair says:


  15. Salik says:

    KK, I just got my first salary this week and it wasn’t from films. I have taken a “break” from filmmaking. Now at least I can share rent of my friends’ flat where I was once a guest. I can’t believe it. I did fool around and managed to do some crazy shit. I am happy. I learnt what needs to be learnt. Don’t assist unless you are invited, paid and respected.
    On my first day at AK’s office (and in the industry) Rahi told me: “Meri baat maan. AD se kuchh nahi hone wala. Tu apni short film kyu nahi banata?”
    It took me a year (or should I say I took a year) to really understand it. I never had any dreams or aspirations to become a part of the industry. Let it be that away. Nothing else matters as long as I can make my films in my way. Perhaps this also explains why people wouldn’t hire me. I was talking about films, with a glass of wine in hand 😉 in the house of a “crazy” award winning director from FTII. Obviously, he got infuriated: “Don’t talk. Pehle kaam karo. Personally, I wouldn’t hire you with your big mouth and that kind of attitude.”
    Kaam to milta nahi. Bas aise bade bade log mil jaate hain.
    I am planning for my film. I want to show myself what I am capable of. I want to please this kid that keeps on nagging me for this film. It’s going to be one of the most important films of my life. It’s already taken three years of peace and happiness out of my life. Want to assist?

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